UK WINS 78-71, CLAIMS SEC CROWN

MISSISSIPPI BUCKLES UNDER CHAPMAN'S 29

Herald-Leader Staff WriterSeptember 24, 2008 

OXFORD, Miss. -- Ten days after breaking a bone in his back, Rex Chapman scored a career-high 29 points, leading Kentucky to a 78-71 victory over Mississippi last night. With the victory, UK claimed sole possession of its 37th Southeastern Conference basketball championship. Instead of the traditional throwing of the coach in the shower, the Cats were treated to an ice shower from an outraged Tad Smith Coliseum crowd of 8,386. What angered the crowd was UK cutting down one net. The barrage of ice and cups forced UK to bypass cutting down the other net. The Cats improved to 22-5 overall and 13-5 in the SEC. Florida had put itself in position to tie for the title by beating Alabama yesterday to go to 11-6. Chapman's firepower made the point moot. Chapman, who broke a bone in his back in a fall against Louisiana State Feb. 24, scored 15 in the first half and 14 in the second. Eight straight points by Chapman answered an Ole Miss rally that had cut lead to 52-50. The Rebels, 12-15 and 6-12, got as close as 63-60. But Chapman's driving layup with 7:20 left began a 9-2 run that gave Kentucky a working margin to hold off Mississippi. Chapman's previous high was 26. Three technical fouls reflected how tensely the two teams fought in the first half. As was the case in Lexington in January, Ole Miss' Rod Barnes and Coach Ed Murphy were hit with technicals seconds apart. UK hit six of its first seven shots to take a 15-8 lead. Meanwhile, Ole Miss, reved up by a pre-game salute to its three seniors, missed five of its first eight. The crowd took out its frustrations on the officials. Ice was thrown to the court at the 17:10 mark when Mike Paul was called for fouling Winston Bennett on a low-post duel. The building frustration spilled over with about 12 minutes left. Barnes complained to the officials as he brought the ball upcourt, claiming Ed Davender was bodying him. Seconds later, Barnes drove to the baseline and Davender was whistled for a foul. Barnes thought he was fouled in the act of shooting, but the foul was ruled before the shot. Barnes complained and was hit with a technical at the 11:50 mark. Davender made the technical free throw to put UK ahead 18-12. Murphy was hit with a technical two seconds after UK inbounded the ball. Davender made both ends of the two-shot technical. UK completed a five- point possession when Winston Bennett hit from the top of the key. Chapman's 15-footer made for a 7-0 run that gave the Cats their largest lead: 24-12. But Barnes scoring -- he had 16 in the half -- allowed Ole Miss to rally. Barnes and Davender became engaged in a duel and the UK guard got the worst of it. It was Davender's turn to question a call when he was called for hacking Barnes on a 15-footer. The three-point play cut UK's lead to 24-15 with 10:37 left. Two minutes later, Davender picked up his third foul and left the game. With Barnes heading a fastbreak, Davender threw himself in front of the Ole Miss guard and was called for blocking. The Rebels cut the UK lead to two. Charles Parater's three-pointer with 33 seconds left made it 36-34. A technical on UK coach Eddie Sutton was part of an 11-3 run that cut into a 33-23 UK lead. Sutton thought Prater had stepped on the baseline as he drove to the basket. When no call was made, Sutton charged to the end of the UK bench to point at where he thought the violation had occurred. The gesturing resulted in a technical with 1:54 left. Rebounding, a fear of Murphy's, allowed UK to take a 38-34 halftime lead. LeRon Ellis rebounded Eric Manuel's miss in traffic with 14 seconds left to set the halftime score. Ole Miss closed to within 52-50 with 13:06 left. Chapman kept the Rebels at bay. His seemingly on-impluse three-pointer from the left side made it 55-50. After Bares hit a 15-footer, Chapman answered with one of his own. Chapman's was made difficult because he was fading to the right. After Barnes hit again, so did Chapman. Another impulse three-pointer -- this one from the top of the key -- made it 60-54 with 11:07 left. UK got its lead to 63-54, but back came the Rebels. Barnes and Prater hit three-pointers to make it 63-60 and prompt a UK timeout with 8:19 left. Chapman missed a three-pointer after the timeout, but scored again on the next possession. He drove off a Lock screen for a layup that began a 9-2 run that built a 72-62 lead and seemed to clinch the victory. Bennett and Lock posted up for baskets -- Bennett's a three-point play -- that extended the lead to 70-62. Two Manuel free throws made it 72-62 with 5:21 left. Wildcat notes Ole Miss saluted its three seniors -- Rod Barnes, Charles Prater and Ronnie Miller -- prior to last night's game. In a brief ceremony, each player was escorted to halfcourt. Prater's girlfriend took him. Barnes' parents and brother accompanied him. The players were given a framed, poster-sized action photograph. Sutton took the Kentucky team to a local ice cream parlor late Friday night. A friend of Sutton's owns and operates the parlor. Observers said the players got behind the counter and lived out a caloric fantasy. Rob Bromley, the WKYT sportscaster, had a particularly rich evening. Bromley said he had a generous slice of mud pie, a local delicacy, with dinner. Then he woofed down a banana split with the team later Friday night.

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